SDCN's History

SDCN is an initiative of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (IISD), headquartered in Washington DC. IISD is a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2002 to promote the process of Sustained Dialogue for transforming racial, ethnic, and other deep-rooted conflicts in the United States and abroad.

IISD's founder, Dr. Harold Saunders, has worked with citizens and communities in civil conflict for over forty years. With this experience, Dr. Saunders documented the process he observed as citizens worked toward peace, Sustained Dialogue's 5-Stage Process, in 1999. It is this process that SDCN's network of college students from all over the country are using as a part of their efforts to deal effectively with longstanding divisions in their campus communities.

In his service as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State to Henry Kissinger, Dr. Saunders played a key role in U.S. mediation of Arab-Israeli peace agreements, including the Camp David Accords.  After leaving government in the 1980s, Dr. Saunders co-chaired the Dartmouth Conference, the longest continuous dialogue between Soviets and Americans which initiated the Regional Conflicts Task Force, also co-chaired by Dr. Saunders. In 1992, Task Force members decided to draw on their experience in fostering and sustaining dialogue; with these members, Dr. Saunders helped to design and initiate a 5-stage Sustained Dialogue among citizens in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic plagued by civil war.

Co-moderated by Dr. Saunders since its 1992 initiation, the Inter-Tajik Dialogue continues today, having celebrated its 10th year and 35th meeting in 2003. The Inter-Tajik Dialogue has contributed to the multi-level peace process in Tajikistan; specifically, its participants helped to initiate and maintain the UN-sponsored Inter-Tajik negotiations in 1994.

Drawing from his experience both in government and in moderating the Dartmouth Conference and the Inter-Tajik Dialogue, Dr. Saunders published A Public Peace Process: Sustained Dialogue to Transform Racial and Ethnic Conflicts in 1999. In that same year, students at Princeton University, concerned about strained race relations on their campus and the chasm between different walks of student life, learned of Sustained Dialogue and chose to begin moderating frank discussions on their campus. The initiative received the annual Daily Princetonian award in 2001 for the most significant contribution to student life.

In 2002, Dr. Saunders founded IISD and by its inception, students were engaged in Sustained Dialogue not only at Princeton, but also at the University of Virginia and Dickinson College. Student SD practitioners, working with Dr. Saunders, conceived of the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network in 2002, in order to support Sustained Dialogue on school campuses. SDCN is an important objective of IISD; it engages future leaders in learning the practice of systematic dialogue, in an effort to build constructive relationships. Through organizing, convening, and conducting Sustained Dialogue, students learn to create the public spaces where democratic, political and economic life begins.

IISD supports the network of students at Princeton University, the University of Virginia, Dickinson College, the University of Notre Dame, Colorado College, the University of Alabama, Denison University, Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University, St. John Fisher College, Cornell College, University of Richmond's Law School and other campuses engaged in Sustained Dialogue.

Sustained Dialogue Campus Network
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